With thrillers Haywire and Contagion already on his slate for next year, Steven Soderbergh is reportedly in talks with Warner Bros. to extend his action groove with an adaptation of lighthearted ’60s television spy-o-rama The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Regular Soderbergh collaborator George Clooney is unsurprisingly already being mooted to take over from Robert Vaughan as Napoleon Solo. No word yet on who’s in line for the role of co-star Illya Kuryakin, but given his history with Soderbergh and resemblance to the role’s original actor (the Sally Draper-pleasing Robert McCallum), my personal speculation is that Brad Pitt could be a solid bet.
Despite the star power already on the table, it’s hard to imagine how an U.N.C.L.E. adaptation could work in the modern climate. Both Slashfilm and Indiewire are reporting that although the film is in the earliest stages of planning, the current intention is to steer clear of modernisation and keep it set in the ’60s. Yet whether today’s audiences will be receptive to a period spy comedy – and make no mistake, U.N.C.L.E. was a broad spoof for at least three of its four years – is up for debate.
The Cold War-era fascination of having an American spy working alongside a Russian, for a global organisation headed up by an Englishman, won’t carry much weight anymore, while the jocular tone of Soderbergh and Clooney’s Ocean’s 11 to13 movies, which could work here with spies instead of robbers, often stumbled the precarious balance between fun and smug. The 1983 TV movie revival, which featured both Vaughan and McCallum alongside an hilariously cheesy cameo from George Lazenby as ‘JB’ (watch it after the jump!) and Avengers legend Patrick Macnee, was not greeted with much enthusiasm either. Soderbergh’s famous versatility could yet come up trumps again, so this could nevertheless be a project worth keeping an eye on. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into another In Like Flint.